Stuff African People Like: Job Titles

Director of Human Resources
Chief Operations Officer
Manager of Custodial and Intermediary Affairs

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It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic class you are talking about: Africans LOVE job titles. If you want to instantly boost morale, instead of calling them a cook, call them Director of Culinary Services and immediately watch productivity jump 100%. This love for job titles stems from a very deep inferiority complex that African people have. And there’s no superficial band-aid for a inferiority complex that works quite as well as the external validation a job title.

Even if the African person does no significant work within the firm, they will proudly flaunt their business card and proclaim themselves as a manager. Manager of what? Half the time, even Africans don’t know.

The key to this one is quite simple. Should you employ an African, make sure you give his job the fanciest name (now that you know how much Africans love big words, feel free to use flowery language when describing their job. In fact the more complex sounding the job title the better). In addition to that, don’t expect the complexity of the job title to match the added effort on the job.

Expect the same work you would from a normal security guard irrespective of whether or not you rename him the

Commander in Chief of South C House B, Servants Quarter……Esquire GSU MBA…….em, Makere trained, Officially Certified, High School Trained (Oh you get the point).

Whenever you address the African, you can completely forego the task of having to remember their native name if you always address them by their job title.

Finally, make sure you give him business cards, plaques and any external indication of his job title so that every single member of his extended family, social network and constituency can stare at it all day while he is at work.

Remember, “substance is nothing, title is everything” and you will be just fine.

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NB: If you live in the States please check out 12 things you can get for free from Majonzi. Feel free to join the discussion and share some freeebies you may have discovered over time.

No Comments

  • By akiey, May 22, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

    This has me ’showing my December teeth’ with laughter. I guess this kinda explains why there’s a casual use of greetings like ‘Sema Chief!, Boss, Major,etc’ among Kenyans or why the likes of Bokassa, Idi Amin, Mobutu took on countless titles and flaunted them with pride, lol!

    As you showed with the big words post and now this, when we Africans decide to do it we can sometimes go overgboard but again, do we care?

    Nothing better than to be able to laugh at your ownself. Just remembered I too have some title yet all I do is bum all day & all night in the name of working. Najivunia kuwa Mwafrika!

  • By Mwangi, May 22, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

    @akiey: By the way how could I forget to put in the King of claiming job titles:

    Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (”The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”)

    Perhaps you can claim an official job title such as: Seat Heat Manufacturer or Dormant Commerce Creator or even go the Mobutu route and create a sentence for a name.

    Your independent life of bumming and creating your own hours….sigh, soon and very soon

  • By acolyte, May 22, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

    You can call me a leg breaker but as long as I get the big bucks; I really don’t care!
    But Africans do love to be able to flaunt their “power” and titles. Some dudes use their business cards to try and get laid in bars.

  • By Mwangi, May 22, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

    @acolyte: I also understand that in Nairobi people use car keys, which are conveniently left on the table, as their mating call. Personally, the more unconventional the job title the better lakini enyewe substance over title any day.

  • By akiey, May 22, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    Btw, Mwangi, ever heard the reason behind Mobutu’s order that all Zaire citizens drop European names and immediately adopt African names? Thought I’d ask to spare the 4-5 lines it would take to explain here. Lemme know.
    Am surprised you remember his full names. As a kid I could hardly say them all without bursting into uncontrolled laughter.

    Now that’s a start you’ve given me with ideas for a name for my good-for-nothing chill all day and all night self. May be one of these days I should get up and start working, before I know it will be May 23rd & I haven’t worked a day since the year began!! heheh, ok, I fail at sarcasm. What I really need is a vacation to go rest my bones. Good thing a long weekend is here so will cross the northern border for some days & hopefully come back with some amazing title to help my bumming.

  • By Mwangi, May 22, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

    @akiey: I would love to hear the reason why Mobutu did that. Over time I definitely want to get rid of my European name.
    I really didn’t know all his names, that was all Wikipedia, I could only remember Mobutu Tsetseseko and that’s about it.
    No man I want to join you soon enough, spend a few hours doing this for a living and the rest of the time……living. Enjoy your long weekend brother!

  • By Kelly, May 22, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

    I remember when I first got my job, I was given some very respectable title, yet I was a fresh graduate, the only lady in the office, and since the Co was small, my roles included making tea, receptionist duties, accounting clerk, admin, and finally financial analysis. So when business cards were being printed, I aked for blank cards in the place of title, cos I felt I was yet to attain the title, my boss was horrified. Mark you, he was the CEO of a 2 person company!

    I hear you on the whole dropping the English name. I have been trying but my maiden name is so ‘childish’ sounding and hard to pronounce!

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 12:12 am

    @Kelly: I remember hearing advice that went a little something like this…..if you are the founder of a small start up that is a small proprietorship or has very few employees, whenever you are going to negotiate, never negotiate as the CEO of the company. That’s because the movers and shakers of societies see “CEOs” and “Directors” of start ups everyday and know that this guy is probably just speaking for himself and his only employee. Instead, create a secondary executive position such as Director of Operations or Director of Sales, so as to suggest there is a hierarchy that goes above and below you, giving you that extra layer of credibility.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 12:14 am

    @Kelly: About the name dropping thing, I actually just came from discussing this……figure out the meaning behind the name. What is the historical significance and tribal history and meaning behind your jina? When that name that you only thought of on the basis of how it sounds has a suddenly deeper and richer meaning……you will want to teach people how to pronounce it. Before Denzel who would have thought a name like that could amount to anything

  • By akiey, May 23, 2008 @ 12:58 am

    @ Mwangi, now u see where this forum is leading? Some brainstorming & sharing of ideas all out of a post from you!

    I agree with Kelly about adopting a less assuming title for the same reasons given here. The less ‘mighty’ you present yourself, the more humble you tend to be and in today’s world that’s a better business attitude than the 80’s aggressive nature of business. Times have changed, anyone can be a CEO or Exec of anything they want but the question remains…”Can You Deliver?” if not then titles remain just that.

    Mine’s a single person owned enterprise despite it having 4-5 branches in it that do different things but all I am is just some creative director. I rarely even claim ownership. I may state that I created or started it but own it? Nah, that’s for my offspring & their cousins. I’m just doing the donkey work.

    Back here with Mobutu’s name legacy after I finish this work man.

  • By akiey, May 23, 2008 @ 1:01 am

    PS: I know your drive to get to turn what you do into a fulltime enterprise. Stay focused, if it means that much to you and you need it that bad and you feel it will enrich your life, then go for it. Nothing beats doing what you love and it feels less like work then, even if you have to pull allnighters to get some stuff done AND you can always integrate many skills you’re learning in school into this. There’s always a way somebody’s diff skills can come together to make one meaningful whole.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 1:05 am

    @akiey: The discussion on this blog over the last few weeks and last couple of months has astounded me. I am so thrilled and thankful to y’all for making the comments section such a useful and constructive place….I have seen what happens when comment sections succumb to the dark side :(
    Interesting…in all honesty, I would have assumed that the aggressiveness of the 80s is still the way to go in this business environment just with a more humanitarian focus i.e. keep the aggression but don’t be so mean to people. Have you read the book Results Only Work Environment? Your ideas made me think of that book, I will post to the link where I was reading about some of their ideas, just a sec: No Schedules, No Meetings—Enter Best Buy’s ROWE – Part 1
    Creative director….I always label myself as Head Writer of the Displaced African….your title sounds so much cooler than mine.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 1:07 am

    @akiey: As always the beacon of positivity :D …cheers man! The fire in my belly is ever-blazing and so I push on with it.

  • By Nigerian, May 23, 2008 @ 1:10 am

    You got me laughing all through. Nice one. Quite funny the way an African wants to show off with multiple titles!
    Just wait until you meet a Nigerian. He will be offended if you don’t call-out all the titles, High Chief, Alhaji, Dr Wazobia, The Cheif Executive Officer of Company AYZ.
    The Southern Nigerians lay more emphasis on titles than the Notherners. Like you pointed out, the titles are often empty names bought with money while the bearer are corrupt politicians who have stolen from the national treasury.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and dropping a comment. I asked for a comment, you gave me an article, I am very grateful.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 1:12 am

    @Nigerian: You are more than welcome, my hope is that the comment is of service to you as you continue to build your blog, which according to Alexa is waaaayyyy ahead of mine at the moment :) . If there is one thing that absolutely amazes me without ceasing is the consistency of the behavior of the modern day African across national boundaries….we have citizens in Kenya who are the exact same way.

  • By R, May 23, 2008 @ 1:25 am

    hit the nail on the head with this one :-) . Been there, done that.

    When I was younger, I was very enticed by promotions that translated to new titles rather than actual change in the pocket. Now, not so much. Now, show me the money.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 1:27 am

    @R: That is one of the things that has always baffled me about some of our obsessions as African people, we seem more obsessed with the tool – the career, the job, the office, the new computer – and the labels surrounding it -job titles, PHD, MBA etc etc than we do about the substance e.g. very few people actually know what exactly they want to do with all that money or what they will do once they reach that holy grail that is retirement that they work so hard towards.

  • By Kelly, May 23, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

    @Mwangi, I hear you on the titles thing. I always wonder why people feel the need to add their qualifications after their name. (Kelly so and so, CPA, CFA, MBA etc etc ) and to make matters worse, they even state the universities and honours etc. Is it a standard especially in the academic circles?

    Now, my Meru name means someone who takes care of cows! (Gatwiri)…I find it really hard to see the depth in it, but I’ll keep searching. I think I will embark on a campaign to teach guys how to pronounce it, but in the meantime, I can use my surname which is a bit common around here.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

    @Kelly: It’s just a standard in African circles period, from Lagos to Nairobi, as far as I can gather. Your name means “who takes care of cows?!”, wait for today’s post, it should make you feel better about your name. Btw, your name is incredibly easy to pronounce so I don’t even see the problem.
    You should see an Aussie try to say the name “Mwangi”….Monkay, Monkeey, Munki, Mongay….it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

  • By Kelly, May 23, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    Munki! :) thats fresh! My name is easy if you’re bantu, I tried using it in high school, people would be like, ngatwire, gaturi etc
    Can’t wait for todays post.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

    @Kelly: At first I couldn’t imagine. My name is as common as John or Peter in Kenya and here we are thousands of Ks away and I have to teach tutorials on Mwangi pronunciation….gotta love immigration.

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